Thanks for Reading: 26 Great Staff-Picked Books for November

It’s the season of giving thanks, and we have got plenty to be grateful for this month. Just look at all these wonderful new books! As always, there are a bunch of novels to sink your teeth into, but this month’s batch of staff recommendations also includes a healthy side of great nonfiction — covering madness, memoir, single-skillet cooking and a whole lot more. We’ve got gift guides coming around the bend soon, but for now, dig in!

Recommended by Karen

Nothing to See Here Cover ImageNothing to See Here

A book about children that repeatedly spontaneously combust? Sounds wild, but if you know Kevin Wilson, you know that he will bring it around to characters that you will love. This is his best, most entertaining book yet.

(Don’t miss Kevin Wilson’s upcoming appearance at Parnassus for a book signing on Monday, November 11, 2019, at 6:30 p.m.)

Recommended by Kathy

Olive, Again: A Novel Cover ImageOlive, Again

Did you love/hate Olive Kitteridge years ago? Here’s more of her story, 10 years later with a new man (how?) her adult son and others from Crosby, Maine. Brilliant.

Recommended by Mary Laura

All This Could Be Yours Cover ImageAll This Could Be Yours

If you’re bummed because you’ve run out of new episodes of Succession on HBO, this is the book to tide you over until next season — with plenty of family dysfunction, secrets, and simmering resentment.

Recommended by Steve

The Water Dancer (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel Cover ImageThe Water Dancer

Like Beloved and The Underground Railroad before it, The Water Dancer — which follows mysteriously gifted escaped slave Hiram Walker — sprinkles in just enough of the supernatural to both heighten and deepen its reality. If there were any doubts Ta-Nehisi Coates could make the jump to fiction, they have been laid to rest.

Recommended by Sydney

The Gallows Pole Cover ImageThe Gallows Pole

Based on true events, this novel is a fictionalized telling about the rise and fall of the Cragg Vale Coiners in 18th Century Yorkshire. These coiners made history by profiting from clipping coins and forging fake money. Perfect for those looking for an immersive historical read.

Recommended by Kathy

Ruby & Roland Cover ImageRuby & Roland

Are you tired of stories of dysfunction, or mysteries with unreliable narrators? Try this quiet novel of the early 20th-century rural Midwest where virtues like honor, respect, civility and loving family still held sway.

Recommended by Chelsea

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts Cover ImageTuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts

If you wish it was spooky season all year, this book is for you. When a Boston millionaire dies and promises part of his fortune to whomever wins his game, Tuesday Mooney finds herself drawn into the action with unexpected sidekicks. I especially loved the widow’s character.

Recommended by Sissy

Twelve Nights at Rotter House Cover ImageTwelve Nights at Rotter House

This is a really fun haunted house book. Fans of Grady Hendrix will enjoy the humor. I laughed on every page, which made the startling moments extra scary!

Recommended by Karen

Bibliostyle: How We Live at Home with Books Cover ImageBibliostyle: How We Live at Home with Books

OK, I am a little biased on this pick because not only is Parnassus featured, but so are local poet and cookbook writer Caroline Randall Williams, and former Nashville resident and author Emma Straub. I dare you though to pick it up and not fall in love with these homes that are jam-packed with books. You will wonder why you ever thought cleaning out older books seemed like a good idea.

Recommended by Kim

The Witches Are Coming Cover ImageThe Witches Are Coming

WHEW. So good. I can’t tell you how many pages I posted to IG Stories with excerpts circled in red. I love Rebecca Traister, but sometimes I need to laugh through the pain, and Lindy has both the writing and comedy chops to make reading about the current political climate bearable. Also, there’s a chapter on men’s love for Adam Sandler movies, and honestly, you should read it for that chapter alone.

Recommended by Keltie

A Month in Siena Cover ImageA Month in Siena

If you have a heart for Italy and its subtler beauty, you will be taken by this spare memoir with color inlays of Siena’s masterpieces. If you were captivated by Matar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Return, about his search for his father in Libya, you discover here its poetic epilogue. There are journeys we take to find, and ones we take to heal. For Matar, the healing is in this art, in this city, in this month.

Recommended by Ben

He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art Cover ImageHe Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art

This slim memoir-literary-meditation paperback from former Poetry editor Christian Wiman explores the mysteries of art, hunger, faith, doubt, language, and mortality. At times wry and self-deprecating, the prose is precise and searching as he converses with gorgeous poems and recounts moments with other phenomenal poets (such as Seamus Heaney, Mary Oliver, Donald Hall).

Recommended by Keltie

The Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History Cover ImageThe Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History

For fans of books about pioneering 20th-century women, like Code Girls and The Girls of Atomic City, this is the book for you. It follows the personal and professional trials of five women who break into the previously all-male world of Walt Disney animation. And it’s also a fascinating history of the evolution of Disney from broke cartoon studio to high-tech global empire. Meet the women behind Dumbo and Snow White!

Recommended by Steve

In the Dream House: A Memoir Cover ImageIn the Dream House: A Memoir

Pretty much every page of this book has a moment that takes your breath away — sometimes with beauty, sometimes with horror. Machado recounts an abusive relationship with another woman, and in so doing not only tells her own story but offers it as a challenge to “archival silence,” or the erasure of queer stories from the cultural record.

Recommended by Sissy

Effin' Birds: A Field Guide to Identification Cover ImageEffin’ Birds: A Field Guide to Identification

Sometimes you want to cuss, laugh, and look at pretty illustrations of birds. This book is calming and cathartic — great gift for the person who has everything.

Recommended by Sissy

The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness Cover ImageThe Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness

Cahalan, a journalist, dives deep into the personal papers of the professor who, years ago, designed a study of mental institutions which had participants go undercover as “pseudo-patients.” Having experienced a mental break herself due to a severe illness, the author tells a gripping tale and brings it even closer to her readers by folding in personal details.

Recommended by Sissy

Blood: A Memoir Cover ImageBlood: A Memoir

Moorer tells a story of a loving and artistic family torn apart by severe mental illness and substance abuse. Her lyrical, calm language is in direct contrast to the frightening events leading up to her parents’ deaths. This tension perfectly encapsulates a story recalled by an adult woman struggling to heal but who has only childhood memories of the events.

Recommended by Mary Laura

Skillet Love: From Steak to Cake: More Than 150 Recipes in One Cast-Iron Pan Cover ImageSkillet Love: From Steak to Cake: More Than 150 Recipes in One Cast-Iron Pan

So far I’ve made the scalloped potatoes and the beef and broccoli stir fry. YUM. I can’t wait to eat my way through the rest of the cookbook, including the pizza on the cover and every single dish in the dessert section — all using just a cast iron pan.

Recommended by Andy

Edison Cover ImageEdison

Pulitzer Prize winner Edmund Morris is known for his meticulous research and his penchant for biographies that don’t follow the normal constraints. In Edison, he begins with the inventor’s death and works backward. You may find yourself flipping pages back and forth, but the technique seems to work in telling Edison’s life as it reaches its climax with the invention of the light bulb. If you find his style confusing, just read it back to front.

Recommended by Cat

South: Essential Recipes and New Explorations Cover ImageSouth: Essential Recipes and New Explorations

For anyone even remotely interested in cooking or eating Southern food, this is a must-have addition to your library. I highly recommend the shrimp croquettes.

Recommended by Keltie

Hymns of the Republic: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War Cover ImageHymns of the Republic: The Story of the Final Year of the American Civil War

Historians are taking a new look at the Old South. Reading Stony the Road last year made me reconsider all I thought I knew about Reconstruction. This book is further education — focusing on just the last bloody, terrible year of the Civil War. This fast-paced narrative sets the stage for everything that came next — in politics, race, and culture. Get ready to re-think what happened, and understand better how we got here.

Recommended by Kay

Medallion Status: True Stories from Secret Rooms Cover ImageMedallion Status: True Stories from Secret Rooms

Medallion Status explores life on the fading fringes of fame with Hodgman’s trademark balance of humor and honest reflection. Whether he’s discussing privilege and politics or famous corgis and secret societies, Hodgman always finds a way to tell a story I want to hear again and again. Also excellent in audiobook form!

Recommended by Jordan

Know My Name: A Memoir Cover ImageKnow My Name: A Memoir

Previously known to the public under the pseudonym “Emily Doe,” Chanel Miller reclaims her identity and tells her story as the survivor of one of the most publicized sexual assaults cases known to date. This vulnerable memoir gives readers a chance to unwrap the story we saw on the news from Miller’s point of view with a beautiful literary touch.

Recommended by Erin

The City Game: Triumph, Scandal, and a Legendary Basketball Team Cover ImageThe City Game: Triumph, Scandal, and a Legendary Basketball Team

Think Hoosiers meets the 1950s-era scandal of Quiz Show, in this true story about an extraordinary team who carried an era’s brightest hopes — racial harmony, social mobility, and the triumph of the underdog — and took the rap for one of the biggest gambling scandals in U.S. history.

Recommended by Keltie

The End of Hunger: Renewed Hope for Feeding the World Cover ImageThe End of Hunger: Renewed Hope for Feeding the World

Not a policy polemic or morality play, this powerful book tackles a big issue in 29 essays. From top scientists, faith leaders, politicians, chefs, farmers and parents, the material is concise and practical. Sen. Frist explains why ending hunger stops war. Brad and Kim Williams-Paisley teach their kids gratitude by taking action. The message? We can do this — and in the season of Thanksgiving, there is nothing more important.

Recommended by Devin

Little Weirds Cover ImageLittle Weirds

I am 100 percent certain that whenever I re-read an essay from this whimsical, magical, weird little book, I will find something new and touching. It’s layered with stories about love, ghosts, nature, and general observations on anything. Her writing is so vivid that it feels like a dream, and I felt such a connection with her storytelling that my own heart would break and then come back together again with hers.

First Editions Club: November Selection

Nothing to See Here Cover ImageNothing to See Here

One of my favorite ways to be able to describe a book goes something like this: “OK, so this sounds completely insane, but you have to read it because it works so well.” I said this when we sent our members The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro and Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, and I’m saying it again as we send you Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson.

What so I mean when I say “completely insane”? Well, for starters, there are kids that spontaneously burst into flame. Add to that an aimless young woman brought in to take care of them, an aspiring politician father trying to keep the secret of his fire-children from the world as he rises through the ranks of government, and a stepmother who happens to be old friends with the aimless young woman.

Unusual premise? Definitely. But Kevin Wilson achieves something truly magical in this novel. It becomes more than a story of kids exploding into fiery rage — a story of the unfairness of family, the difficulty of finding people you trust, and the beauty of finding those you can. So go ahead, jump into a seemingly wild story and get ready to become totally absorbed.

Yours in reading,
Catherine Bock
Inventory Manager

More about our First Editions Club: Every member receives a first edition of the selected book of the month, signed by the author. Books are carefully chosen by our staff of readers, and our picks have gone on to earn major recognition including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Plus, there’s no membership fee or premium charge for these books. Build a treasured library of signed first editions and always have something great to read! Makes a FABULOUS gift, too. 

Parnassus Book Club — Upcoming Meeting Schedule

November — Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Monday, November 18 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, November 20 at 6:30pm
Thursday, November 21 at 10am

Classics Club — The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
Monday, December 2 at 10am and 6:30pm

Both clubs will reconvene in January 2020.

Are you a member of our store book club? Would you like to be? Parnassus Book Club and Classics Club meetings are free and open to anyone. Buy the book, read along, and join the discussion!

“It’s all about the book.” More thoughts on reading from Kathy Schultenover, Parnassus Book Clubs Manager:

A woman who often attends my book club meetings recently stopped me after a session to talk privately. Although she attends regularly, she never contributes to the discussions. She said she felt the need to apologize for never speaking up or taking an active part in the group, feeling intimidated by large numbers, yet wanting to hear the opinions and ideas of others as well as background on the book. I assured her that she was welcome anytime, even if she never said a word, as we nearly always have plenty of folks who love to talk.

While this is not a problem in clubs at the store level, it is often an issue in smaller groups. When there are, say, six people in the group, one who never shares is quite noticeable. What can a club do? While understanding that some people are naturally quieter than others, it can help the group to do the following:

  1. Make sure there is no individual who dominates discussions by talking too much or insisting that their opinions are always correct.
  2. Make sure there is a welcoming atmosphere and a respect for all opinions.
  3. Limit the time any one member can take in the discussion to allow for more member participation.
  4. Begin meetings by having each person give his or her opinion of the book and the reasons for that opinion.
  5. Have a facilitator to keep things moving and on track, perhaps even drawing out the quieter ones.

The goal of a book club is to examine and reflect on the different aspects and merits of a book. It’s most easily reached when all members participate by listening and sharing, yet having room for all types of personalities. By making everyone comfortable, heard and respected, a book club has chances for greater success and enjoyment for all.